weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Back in Vegas with business savvy, Pot Liquor

Flip Arbelaez couldn’t stay away.

The New York native launched his career in Las Vegas with Ark Restaurants in 1996, helping roll out the food-and-beverage program at New York-New York. After working his way up through several management positions in the local market, Arbelaez left in 2011 for an opportunity few in the industry could turn down: An opening to run The Plaza Food Hall by Todd English, inside The Plaza in New York. There, Arbelaez said, he made a quantum leap as an operations manager, controlling food and beverage costs and managing a unionized labor force to maximize profitability.

But Arbelaez returned to Southern Nevada in 2013 for a shot at a new career pinnacle: The chance to own his own place.

In September, Arbelaez and a business partner, chef Doug Bell, opened Pot Liquor Contemporary American Smokehouse at Town Square. The restaurant is part of Authentic Kitchen Alliance, a restaurant-management and development business that Arbelaez and Bell launched with partners Kara Berg, who’s president, and Paul Alfa, the chief financial officer.

Question: How has the local food-and-beverage scene changed since your first stint here in the mid-1990s?

Answer: It has evolved tremendously. The reason I left New York in 1996 at age 20 was because New York was already the big talk of the food world. Vegas was about to blow up and change drastically. It was not going to be about buffets and cheap prime rib. A lot of celebrity chefs were starting to target Las Vegas as a big stage. I followed those rumors.

Since then, Las Vegas has become one of the country’s food giants. It’s a fantastic market that serves many different demographics. It can focus on different types of dining, from (quick service) to fast-food franchises to fine-dining restaurants on and off of the Strip. It evolved quickly and survived a tough recession. I’m very proud of Las Vegas.

Question: Why did you open Authentic Kitchen Alliance?

Answer: The idea is to have two divisions, one that focuses on restaurant development and the other on training and management. We can help out an ailing restaurant by getting on board and retraining the staff. We’ll look for partnerships through which we manage their people. On the development side, Pot Liquor was a low-cost formula that we thought was the right concept to launch.

Question: Why the Pot Liquor concept now?

Answer: Everything about Pot Liquor is designed to set ourselves apart from Lucille’s, Rolling Smoke or Famous Dave’s. Pot liquor is a colloquial term that describes the broth left behind when making collard, turnip or mustard greens. It describes something authentic that takes a lot of heart and soul to make. We wanted something where people could recognize that we are typical, hard-working, culinary-arts people who care about food. And we want people to understand that our food is being done a little better than barbecue food elsewhere. It’s not being warmed up or prepared in a commissary kitchen. We’re actually smoking in this house.

Also, there’s nothing (barbecue-related) in the immediate area. And Town Square has a fantastic draw of locals to tourists, with about 70-30 locals to tourists. We thought it was a great fit.

Barbecue is something there just isn’t an abundance of in Las Vegas. While I was in New York, I did a little consulting for a company and met some folks franchising a Southern Hospitality restaurant. We spent some time dining at Blue Smoke in the Flatiron District. That experience inspired Pot Liquor. It was a nice sit-down restaurant, without the stigma that sometimes comes with barbecue, with its plastic plates and flatware.

Question: Downtown Summerlin has about 20 restaurants. Something new seems to open in downtown Las Vegas every day. And SLS Las Vegas just opened with its restaurant lineup. How will you compete?

Answer: Our plan is to focus on social-media marketing, and campaigning at different events. We plan on being deeply rooted and involved in the community as far as philanthropy and charity. We’ve already done some work on behalf of Susan G. Komen. We also want to be more of a restaurant for locals. And we’ll just stay honest with our cuisine. If you’re looking for barbecue, we want to be the No. 1 choice. We’ve made a difference. We want to continue to make a difference, and we want to be known not just for barbecue, but for refined food that offers great takes on Southern classics.

Question: What are your career goals?

Answer: To expand Authentic Kitchen Alliance to different markets around the country. We have very fresh, new ideas that aren’t here or in other markets desperate for that kind of thing. But more than anything, we want a big presence in Las Vegas. We’re expanding into a management and training facility through which we hope to get involved with hotels and restaurants. One of my mentors said, “If you get this right, I’ll hire you to retrain our entire company.”

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
How much do Las Vegas casino CEOs make?
Las Vegas gaming CEOs made anywhere between $1 million and $24 million last year, according to company filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. ((Las Vegas Review-Journal)
30-year-old Rio needs a little TLC
Nearly 30 years after the Rio opened, the red and blue jewel that helped catapult Las Vegas to a new level with its buffet and nightclub has lost its status along with its shine.
The latest on the Drew Las Vegas - VIDEO
Eli Segall recounts his tour of the Drew Las Vegas, formerly the Fontainebleau, on the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pinball Hall of Fame to move near south Strip
Operators of the Pinball Hall of Fame have been approved to build a new, larger arcade near the south edge of the Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard near Russel Road. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
National Hardware Show underway Las Vegas
The National Hardware Show kicked off Tuesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Caesars for sale?
Caesars Entertainment Corp. has been swept up in takeover speculation since the company’s share price tumbled last year amid disappointing earnings and concerns over a recession. Amid the decline, hedge funds scooped up shares. Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn began buying shares of Caesars as early as January. Icahn acquired nearly 18 percent by mid-March. In February Icahn called on the Caesars board to study a sale as a way to boost shareholder value.
Las Vegas home prices
Las Vegas home prices grew fastest among major markets in February for the ninth straight month. But amid affordability concerns, the growth rate has slowed down. Southern Nevada prices in February were up 9.7% from a year earlier, according to the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index. The last time Las Vegas' price growth fell below 10% was in September 2017, S&P Dow Jones Indices reported.
Free Parking Coming To Wynn
Free parking will come to the Wynn and Encore resorts on May 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Founding Venetian employees talk about 20 years at the Strip resort
The Venetian, which opened May 3, 1999, is celebrating 20 years on the Las Vegas Strip. Seven original employees talk about opening the luxury resort and working there for two decades. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Circa aiming for December 2020 opening
The 1.25-million-square-foot property will have 44-stories and 777-rooms. It will also have a separate nine-story, 1,201-space parking garage.
Boxabl official explains the building concept
Boxabl business development manager Galiano Tiramani shows off a room built by his company. (Blake Apgar/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TI/Mirage Tram reopens
The tram that shuttles guests between TI and Mirage reopened this week after being closed for much of 2018.
Las Vegas Convention Center expansion taking shape
Renderings and actual footage show how the Las Vegas Convention Center is evolving.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at Las Vegas convention
Former Starbucks CEO and potential presidential candidate Howard Schultz spoke at the Epicor Insights user conference at Mandalay Bay Convention Center Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Drew Las Vegas to open in the second quarter of 2022
The 67-story Drew Las Vegas is slated to open in the second quarter of 2022 at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NAB Day 1 (Time Lapse)
NAB kicked off at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, April 8, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
National Association of Broadcasters Show shows 1mm thick 8K TV with 22.2 channel digital sound
Japan’s NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories booth featured a 1mm thick 8K TV system used in conjunction with a 22.2 channel digital sound system at the National Association of Broadcasters Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nevada shoppers react to Smith’s no longer accepting Visa credit cards
On March 1, Smith’s announced that it would no longer be accepting Visa credit cards at any of its 142 supermarkets, including the 45 in Nevada.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission asks how long Wynn executives knew about misconduct
Business reporter Rick Velotta gives an update on the adjudicatory hearing on the suitability of Wynn Resorts to retain its gaming license in Massachusetts.
Henderson app developer part of Startup in Residence
Henderson based developers of the app On Point Barricade are taking part in Startup in Residence, a North America program dedicated to pairing tech companies with governments. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sam's Town employees and customers talk of their love for the iconic casino
Longtime Sam's Town employees and customers love each other and love their casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas apartments rents
Las Vegas’ apartment market has accelerated in recent years. Developers are packing the suburbs with projects, landlords are on a buying spree, and tenants have filled buildings.
William Boyd talks about the birth of Sam's Town
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of Sam's Town, William Boyd, executive chairman of Boyd Gaming and son of hotel namesake Sam Boyd, talks about how the casino became one of the first local properties in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
High Roller observation wheel turns five
The world’s tallest observation wheel celebrates it’s fifth year on Sunday, March 31, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Escape Room Industry Growing In Las Vegas
Escapology employees discuss the growing escape room industry in the U.S. and Las Vegas. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Impact of parking fees on visiting the Las Vegas Strip
There are no data showing a relationship between Strip resort and parking fees and the number of out-of-state visitors to Las Vegas. But there are data showing a relationship between Strip parking fees and the number of local visitors to the the Strip. ‘’As a local, I find myself picking hotels I visit for dinner or entertainment, based on whether they charge for parking or not,”’ said David Perisset, the owner of Exotics Racing. ‘’It is not a matter of money, more of principle.’’ A 2018 survey by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance found 36.9 percent of Clark County residents reported avoiding parking at Strip casinos that charge for parking. 29.1 percent reported avoiding using any services from a Strip casino that charges for parking.
MGM's sports betting deals
MGM Resorts International signed a sports betting sponsorship agreement with the NBA in July It was the first professional sports league to have official ties with a legal sports betting house. The deal came just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law prohibiting sports betting in most states. In October, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the NHL. In November, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the MLB. Financial terms of Tuesday’s deal and earlier partnerships have not been announced.
Faraday puts Las Vegas land on the market
Nearly two years after Faraday Future bailed on its North Las Vegas auto factory, the company has put its land up for sale. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
El Cortez owner Kenny Epstein on running the iconic property
Kenny Epstein, owner of the El Cortez Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, talks about Jackie Gaughan mentorship and answers rumors about bodies in the basement at the mob-era casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
LVCVA recommends construction of underground people mover
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced the recommendation for an underground people mover for the convention center. The system would have the potential to expand and connect Downtown and the resort corridor all the way to McCarran. (Michael Quine/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Week in Pictures: May 12-May 18

Take a look at some eye-catching pictures from Las Vegas Review-Journal photographers in the past week, including high school championship games, UNLV’s graduation ceremony at the Thomas & Mack Center and the Electric Daisy Carnival at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Desert Oasis won its first Class 4A state baseball title on Friday at Las Vegas […]